Fibromyalgia: Can We Explain It?
Put simply, no, fibromyalgia cannot be explained. Fibromyalgia is as much a riddle for doctors as it is for patients. With a huge array of symptoms that can differ drastically from one person to another and with a lot of co-morbid medical conditions that frequently hide the fibromyalgia underneath them, diagnosing this syndrome is still very difficult, even with today’s medical technology.
Doctors used to put the diagnosis for this syndrome according to the symptoms and according to the number of tender points found on their patients’ bodies. In total, there are 18 tender points and they used to believe at sensitivity in at least 11 of them would point out a high risk of fibromyalgia.
However, these days this practice has been abolished and the number of tender points does not matter as much any longer (although there are probably still be doctors following this as a rule). Furthermore, making a differential diagnosis can be extremely important because there are several types of medical conditions that have to be ruled out before the final fibromyalgia diagnosis can be put.
In addition to this, a new blood test for diagnosis fibromyalgia is available too. Called “fm/a”, this blood analyzes particles in the blood that are common only to people suffering from fibromyalgia. However, the main reason not many people are able to take this test is related to the fact that not many health insurance companies will want to cover for it (especially because it is a new test and because fibromyalgia is, in general, highly debated). At the same time, paying for the test on your own is expensive for the largest majority of patients, as the test costs somewhere around $750.
Symptoms for fibromyalgia range from widespread pain to sleeping issues, bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, irritable bladder syndrome, memory issues, lack of concentration, the sleepless leg syndrome, headaches and many, many other symptoms. Each person can experience fibromyalgia differently than the other person and, as mentioned, this makes it incredibly difficult to diagnose.
As for the causes that lead to the development of this syndrome, they are mostly unknown. Some claim that fibromyalgia is not actual pain, but a dysfunction of the cells that are supposed to send pain signals to the brain. Others believe that genetics plays a very important role and that the so-called polymorph genes are the ones responsible for fibromyalgia (as well as for other associated conditions such as the chronic fatigue syndrome and so on). Lifestyle, stress, depression, low levels of serotonin and many other factors are also being taken into consideration, but the closest to a conclusion medical researchers have managed to get when it comes to these is that they can be considered risk factors, rather than actual causes.
Muscle Pain and Fibromyalgia: How Are They Connected?
Muscle pain can appear in any area of the body and it can go way beyond the occasional muscle cramps when it comes to its intensity. Experiencing this kind of pain every day is something many fibromyalgia patients have to deal with, but sometimes, there is no clear explanation on why it is that they feel this way.
Fibromyalgia muscle pain can appear in the muscles of the legs, neck, back or any other muscles of the body. The main theory as to what causes this to happen is related to the above-mentioned issue with the way in which your brain perceives pain, but this idea has not been completely confirmed yet. Furthermore, lack of sleep, improper hydration and bad eating habits can bring patients with even more pain in the muscles, as these things are very tightly connected to the health of the locomotor system.
How to Alleviate the Pain
Since there is no cure for fibromyalgia, what patients have to do is treat symptoms separately. There are several types of drugs that can be administered and they are mostly of a similar structure as anti-depressants (some of which have adverse effects very much similar to those of the anti-depressants). Furthermore, over the counter pain medication (and, in the worst cases, prescription pain medication) and physical therapy will most likely be recommended by a doctor diagnosing a patient with fibromyalgia.
Also, it is worth noting that making some changes in one’s lifestyle can make the whole difference. People who attend physical therapy sessions, people who work out lightly, people who attend Yoga and Tai-Chi classes all have said that their muscle pain has gotten better ever since they started doing these things. Eating properly (plenty of vitamin A, B and D and omega-3 fatty acids) and having 8 glasses of water every day, avoiding caffeine (as it can make you agitated and it can worsen your sleep-related conditions) and living a generally balanced life – all these things matter. Fibromyalgia may not be curable – but it can be manageable!